Ryan Phillippe Says He’s “Offended” by “Nepotism Talk” About His Kids

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Why Ryan Phillippe Says He’s “Offended” By Hollywood Nepotism Debate

Ryan Phillippe‘s intentions are anything but cruel.

The I Know What You Did Last Summer alum weighed in on the ongoing debate surrounding nepotism in Hollywood, arguing that it’s “natural” for children of performers—such as his and ex Reese Witherspoon‘s kids Ava, 24, and son Deacon, 20—to follow their parents’ footsteps.

With Ava now “getting her feet wet” with acting and Deacon pursuing a music career, Ryan told Extra, “That’s what always annoys me about this whole nepotism talk with the industry. So many people grow up and end up doing what their parents do, to some degree or another.”

The 49-year-old continued, “To me, I always get offended for the children of actors and entertainers when people bring that up because, of course, that’s what they’ve grown up around.” 

In fact, Ryan believes celebrity kids often do become successful stars in their own rights due to their “familiarity” with rejection in the entertainment industry.

“You’ve gotta have a thick skin,” he explained, adding that his own children “have grown up watching on set with Reese or with me” just how tough performing can be. “There’s so much rejection and nasty things that can be said about you. It’s not all celebration.”

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In November, Deacon faced criticism when he gave TikToker Caleb Simpson a tour of his New York City apartment, with many viewers calling out how his occupation was listed as “student” in the video’s description.

However, Ryan defended his son on how he “operates in the world,” insisting that Deacon has “got an incredible work ethic.”

“He makes me proud every single day of his life just in regards to the young man he’s become,” the Cruel Intentions star added. “He’s just such a source of light and love, and he’s very solid and spiritual.”

For more celebs weighing in on the “nepo baby” debate, keep reading.

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Dakota Johnson

“When that first started, I found it to be incredibly annoying and boring,” the daughter of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson said on the Feb. 7, 2024 episode of Today about the “Nepo Baby” debate.

Calling the issue “lame,” the Fifty Shades of Grey star added, “So the opportunity to make fun of it, I jumped at”—referring to an SNL sketch poking fun at the controversy that she took part the previous month while hosting the show.

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Emma Roberts

A reminder that this conversation has been going on for awhile, Emma was early in pushing back against the notion that being Julia Roberts‘ niece (and Eric Roberts‘ daughter) was the key to her career.

“A lot of people think that,” the Scream 4 actress, then 20, told PopEater in 2011, “and they talk about nepotism which I think is so ridiculous considering it’s obviously not true—because I’ve auditioned for so many things and never gotten the part. Also it’s like, you know, maybe someone can get you one part, but they can’t really get you 10 parts.”

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Kate Hudson

Goldie Hawn‘s daughter doesn’t bother to get the knives out when talk turns to nepotism.

“I don’t really care,” Kate, who was also raised by Goldie’s longtime partner Kurt Russell, told The Independent in December 2022. “I look at my kids and we’re a storytelling family. It’s definitely in our blood. People can call it whatever they want, but it’s not going to change it.”

The mom to sons Ryder and Bingham (with Chris Robinson and Matthew Bellamy, respectively) and daughter Rani (with current partner Danny Fujikawa) explained, “I actually think there are other industries where it’s [more common]. Maybe modeling? I see it in business way more than I see it in Hollywood. Sometimes I’ve been in business meetings where I’m like, ‘Wait, whose child is this? Like, this person knows nothing!'”

Ultimately, she added, “If you work hard and you kill it, it doesn’t matter.”

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Kaia Gerber

“I won’t deny the privilege that I have,” the model daughter of Cindy Crawford and Rande Gerber told Elle for a January 2023 article. “Even if it’s just the fact that I have a really great source of information and someone to give me great advice, that alone I feel very fortunate for.”

But when it came to making movies, the Bottoms actress said, “No artist is going to sacrifice their vision for someone’s kid. That just isn’t how art is made, and what I’m interested in is art.”

Moreover, she added, “No one wants to work with someone who’s annoying, and not easy to work with, and not kind. Yes, nepotism is prevalent, but I think if it actually was what people make it out to be, we’d see even more of it.”

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Elizabeth Olsen

Carving out her own cinematic universe, Elizabeth is proof that, sometimes, it just takes one.

“I guess I understood what nepotism was like inherently as a 10-year-old,” Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen‘s little sister, who once considered using Elizabeth Chase as her professional name, told Glamour UK in 2021. “I don’t know if I knew the word, but there is some sort of association of not earning something that I think bothered me at a very young age. It had to do with my own insecurities, but I was 10.”

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Ben Stiller

The son of showbiz fixtures Anne Meara and Jerry Stiller believes that a foot in the door will only get you so far.

Responding to a nepotism dig at Hopper (Sean‘s son) Penn, who had been cast in a short film being directed by Destry (Steven‘s daughter) Spielberg and written by Owen (Stephen‘s son) King, Stiller tweeted in 2021, “Just speaking from experience, and I don’t know any of them, I would bet they all have faced challenges. Different than those with no access to the industry. Show biz as we all know is pretty rough, and ultimately is a meritocracy.”

Agreeing during the exchange that Hollywood wasn’t a fair playing field for a number of reasons, the Meet the Parents star clarified, “I’m saying that untalented people don’t really last if they get a break because of who they are or know or are related to.”

Though he got his two cents in early, the trending topic still came for Ben in February 2023 when Steve Martin called him a “nepo baby” in a teaser for their respective Pepsi Super Bowl commercials.

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Hopper Penn and Dylan Penn

“I can see being really pissed that I got this role, as someone else,” Dylan told W after dad Sean Penn directed her in the 2021 drama Flag Day. At the same time, she added, as a working actress “I’ve been auditioning forever. I’ve been rejected forever.”

Regarding the kerfuffle over her brother starring in a Spielberg-daughter-directed short, Dylan stressed, “This is the business. It is about who you know. Always. Whether you’re the son of Sean Penn or not.”

Hopper, who made his movie debut in Sean’s film The Last Face, told E! News in February that the nepo baby conversation didn’t really affect him.

“I’m like, ‘If you like it, cool. If you don’t, great,'” he explained, having just made Devil’s Peak with mom Robin Wright. “And if you think that there’s nepotism going on, I really don’t care because I’m gonna do the work just as professional as everybody else, and I’m not gonna come there and do it half-ass because I’m working with my dad, I’m working with my mom.'”

Working with his father, Hopper noted, was the same “great nightmare” for him as it was for all the other actors who weren’t related to the director. 

And on any project, he added, “if I messed up on the film the first day, I’d be fired just like everyone else. Or, if I was terrible, I’ll be terrible. And I have been terrible.”

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Zoë Kravitz

“People would always assume that if I got a job, it was because of that,” the High Fidelity star told Elle in February 2022 of having Lisa Bonet and Lenny Kravitz for parents.

“That was hard,” Zoë continued. “But I was incredibly privileged. I got an agent easily. I’m not going to pretend like it didn’t help me get into the room. But I had to remember that I work hard, and as a child, I was putting on performances in my grandparents’ house. And it had nothing to do with who my family was. It was because I loved it.”

After the subject blew up, the actress told GQ months later it was “completely normal for people to be in the family business.” Furthermore, she added, “It’s literally where last names came from. You were a blacksmith if your family was, like, the Black family.”

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Lily-Rose Depp

“People are going to have preconceived ideas about you or how you got there,” the daughter of Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis told Elle in a November 2022 interview, “and I can definitely say that nothing is going to get you the part except for being right for the part.” 

Fair enough, but The Idol star’s comment on the resurgent hot topic promptly launched a thousand other comments.

“I’m so careful about these conversations now,” Lily-Rose told i-D a few months later. “I feel like my parents did the best job that they possibly could at giving me the most ‘normal childhood’ that they could. And obviously, that still was not a normal childhood. I’m super aware of the fact that my childhood did not look like everybody’s.”

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Ireland Baldwin

Responding to the discourse triggered by Lily-Rose, Kim Basinger and Alec Baldwin‘s daughter agreed that the kids of celebs will ultimately rise and fall on the strength of their own work. But the first rise is usually achieved thanks to a major boost.

“I wouldn’t be where I am, I wouldn’t have gotten where I am and been able to do what I can do if it weren’t for my parents, and I think really where you go wrong is denying that,” Ireland said in a November 2022 TikTok.

She got that “either you’re talented, either you’re capable or you’re not.” But “things could be a lot more simple and understandable and relatable if you just are honest about what you have and why you have what you have.”

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Gwyneth Paltrow

“As the child of someone, you get access other people don’t have, so the playing field is not level in that way,” the daughter of Blythe Danner and the late Bruce Paltrow said in July 2022 on Hailey Bieber‘s YouTube series Who’s in My Bathroom?. “However, I really do feel that once your foot is in the door, which you unfairly got in, then you almost have to work twice as hard and be twice as good.”

Bruce opened the door, directing Gwyneth in the 1989 TV movie High, her acting debut, and Steven Spielberg sprinkled pixie dust on it, casting his 14-year-old goddaughter in the 1991 Peter Pan fantasy Hook.

And that was before the debate was raging. “Now there’s this whole ‘nepo baby’ culture and judgment that exists around kids of famous people,” Gwyneth told Bustle in October 2023, calling the term “kind of an ugly moniker.”

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Jane Fonda

Growing up with a national treasure-level star for a father, the actress and activist was acutely aware that her childhood was not normal.

“When I was 10, we moved to the East Coast, and suddenly I realized, because of how I was treated, that there was something special about me,” Jane told Harvard Business Review in 2018. “It made me a little self-conscious. Some people wanted to be my friend because my father was Henry Fonda; some people didn’t like me because my father was Henry Fonda. There was both good and bad.”

“When I became an actress,” the two-time Oscar winner continued, “the fact that my father was a movie star was an advantage—no question—because people paid more attention to me than they would have if I were just another actress. Also, internally, I wanted to be sure that I wasn’t getting parts because I was Henry Fonda’s daughter, so I worked harder. Instead of taking one class a week, I would take four, so no one could say I was a dilettante.”

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Bryce Dallas Howard

“It is an amazing privilege to be a child of someone who works in an industry that you are interested in and eventually work in,” the Jurassic World star—whose first role was “Redheaded Audience Girl” in dad Ron Howard‘s Parenthood—told The Daily Beast in 2020. “It’s a privilege for that person to have success in their own right. But there was no greater privilege than the fact that my dad was supportive of me, empowered me, and showed me respect—real respect—from day one.”

Naturally, Bryce continued, “insecurities can creep up or you’ll hear somebody say, like, ‘Oh, she only got that because of X, Y, or Z.’ But that’s very small.”

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Maya Hawke and Ethan Hawke

“Put simply, I’m a nepo dad!” Ethan, who shares Maya with ex-wife Uma Thurman, cracked to Variety in September about jumping at the chance to direct his daughter in Wildcat. “And I’m not embarrassed about it.”

Maya, who plays writer Flannery O’Connor in the film, said, “I had moments of insecurity about it while we were shooting the movie. But the internet doesn’t have a lot of nuances. My dad has been a massive teacher for me, and we want to work together. We like being with each other.”

The 25-year-old had previously noted that she could only go so far as her parents’ kid. “I think I’ll get a couple chances on their name and then if I suck, I’ll get kicked out of the kingdom,” Maya told People in 2021. “And that’s what should happen. So I’m just going to try not to suck.” 

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Jamie Lee Curtis

Not long before she won her first Oscar for her supporting turn in Everything Everywhere All At Once, the daughter of late screen legends Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh was happy to crack a joke at the zeitgeist’s expense.

“My parents were actors and I married an actor,” Jamie Lee, whose husband is Christopher Guest, said while accepting her SAG Award in February 2023. “I know you’ll look at me and think, ‘Well, nepo baby. That’s why she’s there’— and I totally get it. But the truth of the matter is, I’m 64 years old and this is just amazing.”

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Colin Hanks

“When I was starting off, I was sort of lovingly naïve, thinking that it wasn’t as big a deal as it is, that I would get the benefit of the doubt that I was my own person,” Colin said of being Tom Hanks‘ kid on Armchair Expert in 2018. “And that doesn’t happen.”

The 46-year-old, whose first movie role was “Male Page” in his dad’s 1996 directorial debut That Thing You Do!, said on Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend in October 2022 that he does “credit the old man” for advising him to only go into acting if he really wanted to.

Tom advised him, “‘If you don’t really want this, then come up with something else, ’cause you will be miserable.'”

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Tom Hanks

Asked about the renewed focus on actors’ actor kids, Tom—dad to Colin and daughter Elizabeth with late ex-wife Samantha Lewes and sons Chet and Truman with current spouse Rita Wilson—described showbiz as simply “the family business.”

“This is what we’ve been doing forever,” Tom told Reuters in January 2023. “It’s what all of our kids grew up in. We have four kids, they’re all very creative, they’re all involved in some brand of storytelling.”

He also acknowledged it wasn’t a stretch for director Marc Forster to cast Truman as Tom’s younger self in A Man Called Otto. “But the final analysis,” the Oscar winner told ET at the film’s premiere, “is the person has to show up on the day and hit the marks and tell the truth. Only he can make that decision. It was totally up to him.”

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Drew Barrymore

A scion of one of the most storied Hollywood dynasties, Drew couldn’t escape her famous last name.

But while being screen legend John Barrymore‘s granddaughter carried some weight, the Never Been Kissed star put it this way on her talk show in January 2023: “If you came from a family of lawyers, and someone said, ‘Oh, well, her dad runs the firm,’ it’s like, ‘Well, she still took the bar and got here of her own volition.’ So as long as we’re not catty about it and celebratory of it, that’s the tone I want.”

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Leni Klum

Heidi Klum‘s eldest child is perfectly fine that she’s in thanks to her supermodel mom and dad Seal. But it’s up to her to stay in.

“It’s just a fact,” Leni, 19, told People in October 2022. “My parents are famous. I did get help starting off, and I know that people would dream to start off with what I had…But I am doing the work and putting in the time. Now I’m working on my own, traveling alone, going to school. My mom and I just have the same love for the same thing.”

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Maude Apatow

Judd Apatow and Leslie Mann‘s firstborn daughter was admittedly saddened by the nepo baby tag, but she was trying not to let it get to her.

“A lot of people [in similar situations] have proven themselves over the years, so I’ve got to keep going and make good work,” the Euphoria star told Net-a-Porter for a September 2022 article. “It’s so early in my career, I don’t have much to show yet, but hopefully one day I’ll be really proud of the stuff I’ve done by myself.”

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Lily Allen

“The nepo babies y’all should be worrying about are the ones working for legal firms, the ones working for banks, and the ones working in politics, If we’re talking about real world consequences and robbing people of opportunity,” Allen, standing up for how hard she’d worked to get where she was, tweeted in December 2022. “BUT that’s none of my business.”

In response to the inevitable backlash reminding the singer—whose parents are actor Keith Allen and film producer Alison Owen—that TikTok was focusing on entertainment nepo babies, thankyouverymuch, Lily acknowledged that was a valid conversation, too.

“It is quite clear that there is a severe lack of representation in the industry where class and race are concerned,” she wrote on X, then known as Twitter. “Everyone loses as a result…I do feel that nepo babies are being somewhat scapegoated here though, there is a wider, societal conversation to be had about wealth inequality, about lack of programs and funding.”

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Meghan McCain

The daughter of late Sen. John McCain and Cindy McCain is of the view that there’s no shame in having accomplished parents. But you gotta own it.

“To my fellow ‘Nepo babies’—just acknowledge your privilege, the opportunities your last name has gotten you and move on,” she offered on Instagram Stories in December 2022. “At some point talent and grit comes into play but let’s stop acting like this is in anyway a rational burden that people know who [our] parents are—you sound like a–holes.”

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Hailey Bieber

Need Stephen Baldwin‘s daughter (and niece of Alec, Billy and Daniel) say more than her January 2023 “Nepo Baby” tee?

Though she did.

“It was more so to be like, ‘This is what everyone is saying and I want you to know that this is my way of responding to it,'” Hailey said in June, explaining her purposely “overly literal” message on The Circuit With Emily Chang. Indisputably a nepo baby, the Rhode Skin founder said, “I embrace that I am.”

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Tallulah Willis

Bruce Willis and Demi Moore‘s youngest daughter gave big sisters Rumer Willis and Scout Willis a sartorial shout-out about being the children of movie stars in February 2023.

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Meg Ryan

“Jack is really talented,” the rom-com queen told Glamour of son Jack Quaid, whom she shares with ex-husband Dennis Quaid. “He’s more of a natural than I’ll ever be.”

Meg added, “That nepo stuff is so dismissive of his work ethic, his gifts, and how sensitive he is to the idea of his privilege.”

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Jack Quaid

Jack is certainly aware of the assumptions that are made about the children of actors.

“I knew that people would constantly say, ‘Oh, I know how he got that job,'” The Boys star told Thrillist in 2022. “And they’re still going to say that. It’s fine. But as long as I knew how I got there, that would be enough.”

Now 31, Jack decided long ago there was no point trying to hide his parentage.

“It’s not that I want to escape from it,” he said on Allegedly with Matthew Cole Weiss in 2016. “I’m a huge fan of both of their work.” Noting that he wasn’t allowed to start auditioning until he was 18, Jack added, “If I had just parents that weren’t actors, I would still be over the moon to have this job.”

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